This blogger admits to shamelessly watching the occasional “brain candy” television – you know, the reality shows with expensive designer handbags, juicy rumors, and dinner parties that somehow always turn into heated arguments and table flipping. For me, it’s mindless entertainment after the end of a long day. Entertainment that I know is probably half-scripted and set up by the producers. That being said, after watching a recent episode of “Vanderpump Rules” on Bravo TV – a show following the lives of a few 20 and 30-somethings working in an upscale lounge in L.A., I was moved to talk about an issue that is surfacing not just on reality TV – but in homes across the country. In case you’re not a “Vanderpump-er” let me fill you in: Actress Scheana Marie broke down about the current state of her new marriage and the problems she’s facing with her husband, Mike Shay – eluding to his battle with drugs and alcohol. Through tears, Scheana explained how only a few months into their marriage, she noticed that her husband began drinking much heavier than he ever had – and mixing prescription pills with alcohol.
“You know, it’s like, ‘Oh my knee’s hurting so I’m going to take a Vicodin, but then i’m going to have a couple glasses of wine,’” she explained.
“The truth is everything isn’t great. It’s not perfect. And I keep trying to act like everything’s okay. And it will get better. I just keep telling myself, ‘It’s ok and it will get better.”
“I feel like I’ve been cheated on. Like, ‘You had this whole other life and you’re hiding it from me and I didn’t know.’”
Scheana goes onto explain how she feels that she hasn’t been a good wife and has nagged her husband too much about his drinking and painkillers, and how his habits have made her feel upset, guilty and isolated. She acknowledges that it’s caused problems in her marriage and doesn’t feel like he is the same man that she married less than a year prior. Do we know whether or not this drama is scripted? No. But what I do know is that at Vertava Health, we take calls from family members every single day that have those same worries, fears, regrets, guilt, thoughts and feelings as Scheana Marie. If you love someone with an addiction to any drug – whether it be pills, alcohol, heroin, or meth – you know how devastating the disease is, and that you also suffer in watching both your relationship and your partner’s life crumble. You must deal with the person you love in a way you never imagined: behaving irrationally, lying, and cheating. And if you’re married – you’ve not only said, “In sickness and in health,” but you’re also legally bound to this person.
Addiction can be one of the deepest, most frustrating and painful challenges that a marriage can face.
An addicted person often learns to turn the table on the non-addicted spouse; becomes manipulative; has excuses or lies for where the money went, why they didn’t come home, or how they lost yet another job. Out of love, and hope for the marriage – the non-addicted spouse can get caught in the web of cover-ups, secrets, and lies. With nearly 22 million people in active drug and alcohol addiction, the disease impacts one in every three households in the U.S. This means that there many millions of people in the country suffering from the effects of being married to, in a relationship, or living with someone in active addiction. In fact, there are an estimated 12.5 million spouses facing an addicted partner in the United States. Many of these people will find themselves in a divorce; others will “learn to live” with it – and become co-dependent in their relationship. Only a small percentage of these people will seek treatment and live in a strong and happy marriage. If you are married to a person in active addiction, as wounded as you may find yourself, remember that your partner’s addiction is not a choice. Remind yourself that, deep down, this is still the person that you fell in love with – and right now, they need you more than ever.
- Reach out for help. Chances are, if you are in a relationship that faces addiction – you’ve been suffering, as well. In order to fully heal, you both will need help from certified professionals.
- Let your loved one know you’re there for them. You’re not a psychiatrist or an addiction specialist – but you can be there for your spouse in other ways. Supplement their addiction treatment with your love and support – it will go a long way.
- Know that self-care isn’t selfish. It’s easy to get these two ideas confused. Selfishness means you get what you want when you want it, while self-care means that you respect yourself enough to make healthy choices for your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Respect yourself.
- Point fingers. Addiction often leads to the blame game; it’s tempting to point fingers at your loved one for your struggles and suffering. This isn’t the time to assign blame or isolate in self pity. The sooner you accept what is happening in your life and relationship, the more likely it is to change.
- Try to control or “fix”. The only person you have control over is YOU. And the only person that has control over your loved one is him or herself. You didn’t cause the addiction, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it – you can only be there to offer love, support and encouragement.
- Give into manipulation. People in active addiction hate to hear the word, “No.” The more you allow yourself to be manipulated, the more manipulative a person in active addiction may become. Hold your ground.
Whether it’s reality TV or real-life, coming face-to-face with reality is the most important first step in an addicted relationship. Whatever your particular situation is, know that life won’t magically fall into place without hard work on both ends. Addiction can tear a marriage apart, but addiction recovery can deepen the bonds of marriage. Take care of yourself – and take care of one another.